BY LYNN PACIFICO | “Curb Your Dog” is not a law but a sanitation campaign. But Section 1310 of the New York State Public Health Law, known as the “Canine Litter Law,” requires dog owners in large cities in New York State to clean up after their pets. To better understand the issue, I spoke to people who deal with different aspects of dog waste professionally. (They know their s—.)
Sharon Mear from Training Cats and Dogs suggested that to keep park-poor Downtown Manhattan clean, the city should give dogs places to relieve themselves.
“Not every dog can hold its bladder while walking 10 minutes to find an appropriate place to eliminate,” she noted. “Some dogs are puppies, some are elderly or have a stomach upset.”
“Guardians are scolded if their dogs urinate in tree pits, against buildings, in front of buildings, in the middle of the sidewalk, etc.
“Since the pandemic, streets are more chaotic. Sidewalks are jam-packed with electric bikes, scooters, mopeds, joggers, baby carriages. Half the blocks are taken up by CitiBike stations and dining sheds. Forcing dogs to eliminate on the street between cars is dangerous.
“We need dog relief stations. I know: We don’t have these for humans like other countries. But if you make it easier to accommodate animals’ and their guardians’ needs, there wouldn’t be such pushback.
“An easy suggestion is sandpits next to tree pits — one on each corner and maybe three to four per block. Dog owners would be responsible for cleaning up.
Rick Duro, head of Sunnyside United Dog Society in Queens, noted that the growing number of bike lanes cause problems for dog owners.
“After the installation of bike lanes in my ’hood, I stopped bringing my dog off the curb,” he said. “It’s too risky. Bikers don’t pay much attention, blow through red lights, stop signs, go the wrong way, drive recklessly.”
I asked the N.Y.P.D. their official opinion on dog waste, including if $250 tickets for not picking up are issued. (A police officer must witness the offense.) I have not yet heard back.
Jennifer Davis, a superintendent for a large Downtown residential building, deals with this issue daily.
“Staff is constantly having to clean feces and urine from the sidewalks and building,” she said. “We wash sidewalks once a day while watering the plants, then spot-clean as needed — usually a few times daily. We have tried using biocides, antibacterials and peppermint oil to kill the urine smell / attractants to other dogs, so they won’t mark.
“Some people do curb their dogs, but most in the building curb right in front of the front door, so we constantly have to wash it, so it’s not all tracked into the building.”
“I have seen people letting their dogs pee on ‘Curb Your Dog’ signs. Almost every person I’ve approached when their dog was in a tree pit said their dog needed dirt, plants or grass to go.
“I have seen neighbors encouraging their dogs to use our tree pits as toilets. This has been exacerbated by the newish city regulation that the tree pit guards must be open on the street side, so the city has ease of access for tree replacement. Our block has added a temporary fencing on open fronts to keep out dogs; since installation, the amount of plant growth shows it does make a significant difference — not just by decreasing dog urine, but also reducing the trampling, digging and kicking / burying motion post-potty.
“A number of people I’ve approached seem to think feces is ‘fertilizer’ but don’t realize it isn’t without being properly treated. Plus, humans have to maintain the plants in these areas.
“Here are some suggestions:
“Carry a water bottle to rinse the sidewalk after pee.
“If you go to Chewy’s Web site and search ‘dog pooper scoopers,’ there are 56 items to choose from for those who might have issues bending down.
“When a dog squats to poo, put a newspaper on the ground under the dog’s butt and then simply fold it up in the paper and toss.
The old “Curb Your Dog” sanitation model no longer works here. Dog owners will work with the city on possible solutions.
Pacifico is a fourth-generation Villager who loves dogs, nature and New York City.